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Ki-43-I Kit

Nichimo 1/48 Ki-43-I Hayabusa (Oscar) Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review July 2009 Manufacturer Nichimo
Subject Ki-43-I Hayabusa (Oscar) Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4820 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed Japanese fighter Cons Grainy surface texture. Cockpit & control surfaces molded solid. Japanese only instructions do not permit English speaking modelers to know painting & marking scheme information
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $19.95

First Look

Ki-43-I Kit
Ki-43-I Kit
Ki-43-I Kit
Ki-43-I Kit
Ki-43-I Kit
Ki-43-I Kit

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (“Peregrin Falcon”) was a single-engine land-based fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in WWII. The army designation was "Type 1 Fighter" , the Allied codename was "Oscar".

The "Oscar" was designed to a set of similar specifications as those of the A6M Zero, but it was more lightweight and was even less rugged than its already flimsy naval counterpart. Known for its nimble handling and legendary for its performance in East Asia in the early years of the war, the Ki-43 was designed by Hideo Itokawa, who would later become famous as a pioneer of Japanese rocketry. Although the maneuverability of the prototype was quite good, some Japanese pilots complained that it was less maneuverable than the Ki-27 "Nate". This was remedied by Itokawa's addition of a unique 'butterfly' maneuvering aileron in the wings, which helped performance in tight turns, although some pilots still complained. The initial production version was given the designation Ki-43-I. In addition to outstanding maneuverability, the Ki-43-I had a very impressive rate of climb due to its light weight, with a top speed of 495 km/h (308 mph) at 4,000 m (13,160 ft).

The Ki-43 was equipped with two cowling machine guns in various configurations, with either two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 97 machine guns, one 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 (machine cannon) and one 7.7 mm (.303 in) gun, or two 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 guns; the aircraft was given various sub-designations to reflect these differences. The configuration that appears to have been most prevalent at the outset of the war was the latter configuration with two 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 machine guns, sometimes given the official designation Ki-43-I (Mark Ic) The Ho-103 was often loaded with explosive ammunition to increase target effect; its penetrative effect against later Allied aircraft armor appears to have been marginal.

Nichimo is a model company based in Japan.

This kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows a Oscar that is flying escort for a group of Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally” bombers. Black smoke is trailing downward. Apparently an enemy aircraft has been shot down. The Oscar is in IJN dark green over bare metal undercarriage. It carries a fuselage white band in front of the tail. The squadron mark is a yellow arrow outlined in white, diagonally across the tail. The propeller spinner is yellow. I haven’t a clue as to what unit this represents.

One side panel of the box has 4 color illustrations of box arts of other kits that Nichimo markets: a Japanese Navy Nakajima B5N Type 97 “Kate”-kit no. 13, a Japanese Army Nakajima A4N Type 95-1 biplane – kit no. 14, a Japanese light civilian aircraft Fuji FA200 Aerisubaru – kit no. 15 and a civilian Cessna Skyhawk seaplane – kit no. 17.

The other side panel has the box art repeated, plus the box art of another boxing of the Oscar in color. Between these two illustrations is what appears to be perhaps the history of the Oscar in Japanese only.

Inside the box are 3 light gray trees of parts, loose fuselage halves and a clear parts tree in three stapled shut cello bags. The decal sheet is in a stapled cello also. The instructions and a tiny tube of jell-type glue completes the kits contents.

The instructions consist of a single sheet printed on both sides. It is accordion folded to fit the box. It is vertically quite long, at 21” and 9 7/8” in width.

The front of the sheet begins with some illustrations for 5 paint and marking schemes. Unfortunately, the instructions are all in Japanese. So, I cannot say what groups these aircraft were with or what colors are indicated. Next to these is a list of what appears to be the names of all the parts in the kit, above a coupon to mail to Nichimo for any assistance for kit problems.

The rest of this side has 2 numbered assembly steps. However, step one has 5 assembly drawings in it.

The other side of this long sheet gives the balance of a total of 5 assembly steps. At the bottom of the page is color and marking illustrations for 5 more Oscars. Data about these is all in Japanese.

This kit is over 30 years old now. It was very advanced, detail wise, for state of the art of aircraft kits at that time. Especially, the cockpit detail and the engine. The 2 pilot figures (one seated and one standing) are terrible, and look like gargoyles. The main wheels are rather toy-like and featureless. Best replaced by a set of the True Details brand resin ones that are available. The surface of the kit parts is a strange rough texture and the indented rivets are a little distracting. I am told that the cockpit floor sits too low, which makes the joystick too long. I am also told that the oil cooler ring is too long and it sticks out of the cowling too far, if not adjusted. It can be fixed by shortening the engine mount part and moving the entire engine assembly backward by a few millimeters.

There are no parts tree illustrations in the instructions. Part trees are alphabetized and numbered, as well as the assembly steps.

Letter A light gray parts tree holds the wing halves (the lower wing half is full span, which sets the dihedral nicely) (3 parts)

Letter B light gray parts tree holds: the standing and seated pilot figures, the cowling, the 2-bladed propeller, the propeller spinner, cockpit floor, landing gear legs and wheel well doors, horizontal tail surfaces, tail wheel, pilot seat, rear cockpit bulkhead etc. (28 parts)

Letter C light gray parts tree holds: the engine parts, firewall, exhausts, drop tank halves, cockpit consoles and levers, foot pedals, dashboard etc. (52 parts)

The final light gray parts are the two fuselage halves. They are not numbered or alphabetized, because what they are is very obvious.

The clear part is the single canopy part. This is molded solid and would take surgery to open or could be replaced by an after-market vacu-formed one. Control surfaces are also molded solid. Panel lines are all of the engraved type. Except for a few glitches, already mentioned, I highly recommend this kit to modelers that have experienced skills.

The detail on the engine is especially extensive and the cockpit could only be enhanced by raising it up a bit and adding seat belts. There are some Eduard PE sets geared for the 1/48th Oscar around. Hasegawa does 4 different boxings of the Oscar in this scale. Otaki/Arii and Fine Molds have also done one too.